The death of children is the death of innocence
by Emine Erdogan
As you are all aware, a major human tragedy is taking place in Gaza. The embargo that has been continuing for a long time in Gaza was previously causing deaths one-by-one.
Now, following these latest attacks, one-by-one deaths have been replaced by deaths in large numbers. We have witnessed, just in the past two weeks alone, merciless killings of close to 800 people with heavy weapons. What we are witnessing cannot be expressed in words. This time around, phosphorus bombs are being rained on innocent civilians who have been deprived of their most basic human rights and needs. Civilians who have been deprived of electricity, water, food, clothing and the most basic health needs are being killed in front of cameras and the very eyes of the whole world with inhuman methods.
This brutality, which is being seen on live broadcasts, clearly demonstrates the dimensions of the indifference and insensitivity. Words fail to describe the suffering of women and children. The children of Gaza, just like children the world over, like our children, wanted milk, bread and toys, to go to school and to the park and to learn and play.
How tragic it is that they died on their bicycles and in the parks they played in. They sought refuge in schools, but were killed there, too. They sought refuge in mosques, but were killed again. They were taken to hospitals, but could not escape the death machines even there. The warmest and most secure place for them was their mothers’ arms, their cradles. But death sought them out even in their mothers’ arms and in their cradles. They were not on any of the sides in this conflict. They could not comprehend why their elders were fighting, why they were shooting at one another, why they were launching missiles. Maybe as we are speaking here at this very moment, another woman, another innocent child, another baby is dying. Let there be no doubt: The death of children is the death of innocence, and the death of innocence is the downfall of humanity.
Those who do not respect innocence and legitimacy cannot speak of human values and humanity. Those who kill children and civilians cannot hide behind any excuse or pretext; they cannot justify these murders or escape being judged in the conscience of humanity. I am speaking and expressing my sorrow here first and foremost as a mother and not as the representative of any political view. As mothers, even when our children fall while playing in a park and hurt their knee or elbow, our hearts cannot help but feel the pain. There, when a child loses a leg or an arm because of a bullet, imagine how their mothers are desperately trying to ease their pain and soothe those tiny hearts. Does she say: “Don’t be afraid my child, it will get better”? Or does she wrap their wounds with a piece of cloth torn from her skirt instead of a bandage? I cannot even imagine this and I cannot find words to express the sorrow in our hearts. This brutality not only targets a child’s innocence and universal human values, but also a mother’s compassion, affection and love.
Those dying in Gaza are not just innocent civilians or innocent women and children. In Gaza, the conscience and compassion of humanity as a whole is dying. Those who remain indifferent to the killings by saying, “Those who die here are Palestinians and Muslims,” should question themselves and their own consciences.
The book of Exodus in the Old Testament states, “Thou shall not kill” (20:13).
Chapter 19 of the Gospel according to Matthew says, “Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, honor thy father and thy mother and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Verse 32 of Surah Al-Maidah of the Holy Quran says: “Whosoever killeth a human being, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind. And whosoever saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all men.”
While all monotheistic religions believe human life to be sacred, what is the meaning of these murders? What is the meaning of these killings? What is the meaning of this brutality? The lives of Gazans are also sacred and their lives are also valuable. Our appeal here is not addressed to one single religion, one single sect or political view or one single country. Our appeal is to the whole of humanity, because what is being lost in front of our eyes is our own humanity.
Regrettably, the tears we are shedding for them do not suffice to ease their pains, silence their screams or heal their wounds. Those people expect more concrete steps to be taken. The people over there urgently need medicine, food, clothing and fuel. The people there need hope, love and solidarity. We can become hope for them. We can become a light of life for them. We can provide them with better living conditions. Instead of solving problems by way of crude force, we can deliver them love, affection and compassion. Thus, we can ease the pain in the hearts of the helpless people there, including the elderly, women and children, and console them to some extent. Let’s join our hands and hearts and do what is necessary to mobilize humanitarian assistance organizations. I am convinced that if you take these steps, history will speak of you as having “small steps but large hearts.”
I hope that the strong, united and vocal appeal that we will extend on the occasion of this meeting will spread to the whole world and turn into strong pressure for ending Israel’s attacks without delay. Our appeal is for the immediate cessation of the attacks, establishment of a cease-fire and lifting of the embargoes. I invite the international community to adopt a more active stance toward bringing an end to this human tragedy. As you know, the UN Security Council has called for a permanent and immediate cease-fire in Gaza. We expect a positive response to this resolution and this call, which was adopted by a vote of 14 out of 15 members, with the abstention of the US.
I genuinely believe that our calls are going to make important contributions to peace. I would particularly like to address the women and children of Gaza: You are not alone. You are not without friends. We have always stood by you and we will always stand by you.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to conclude my words by reciting a few verses of a poem by our famous poet Nazım Hikmet:
I come and stand at every door
But none can hear my silent tread
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, for I am dead
My hair was scorched by swirling flame
My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind
Death came and turned my bones to dust
And that was scattered by the wind
I need no fruit, I need no rice
I need no sweets, nor even bread
I ask for nothing for myself
For I am dead, for I am dead
All that I need is that for peace
You fight today, you fight today
So that the children of this world
Can live and grow and laugh and play
(*) This article is based on a speech by Mrs. Emine Erdoğan, spouse of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, at a meeting with other first ladies in support of Gaza in İstanbul on Jan. 10, 2009. Source: Today’s Zaman